WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (AP) Marques Alston's layup with 1.4 seconds left capped a late Monmouth rally for a 54-53 win over Central Connecticut State Thursday night in the opening round of the Northeast Conference tournament.
The top-seeded Hawks (16-12) overcame a horrible shooting night and a 14-point halftime deficit to beat the eighth-seeded Blue Devils (12-16). The Hawks will host Wagner, which upset Robert Morris, in the semifinals on Sunday.
Central Connecticut took the lead midway through the first half and later went on a 15-3 run to take a 32-18 lead at halftime. Monmouth was only 5-of-21 from the floor in the half and failed to make a field goal in the final 8:13.
Monmouth turned things around after intermission by scoring 14 of the first 18 points in the half, but the Blue Devils continued to cling to the lead in the game's closing seconds.
DeMario Anderson's breakaway dunk gave Central Connecticut a 53-49 lead with 25 seconds to go, but Monmouth's Dejan Delic hit a 3-point shot with 15.8 seconds to play. Lenny Jefferson missed a free throw and the Hawks' then set up Alston's game-winning shot.
Anderson led Central Connecticut with 11 points, while Obie Nwadike had nine points and a team-high six rebounds.
Blake Hamilton, the conference player of the year, had a game-high 16 points for the Hawks, while Alston had 12 and nine rebounds.